Many executives would likely admit that handling employee terminations is their least favorite part of the job. The process can be unpleasant, emotionally charged, and worse, it can subject an employer to legal liability if mishandled. If you are considering terminating an employee, this post provides practical advice on how to carefully document your decision and carry out the termination. These steps can help you avoid common problems, both from a legal and practical perspective.
- Check your documentation. Have you previously disciplined or written up the employee? Make sure that you have adequately documented the reasons for the termination. This will help make sure that the termination does not come as a complete surprise to the employee, and will also help to support your position in the event of any litigation relating to the termination.
- Prepare a termination letter. It can be helpful to provide the employee with written notice of his or her termination. If there were multiple reasons for the termination, however, it can be difficult them all in the written termination notice. For this reason, it may be best not to include any of the reasons for termination in the notice rather than risk missing something critical. In any event, since most workers are employed on an at-will basis, the employer is not required to have or to give a reason for the termination at all.
- Decide whether to offer the employee a severance payment and prepare a severance agreement. There are many reasons why offering severance in exchange for a waiver of all legal claims can be beneficial. It can help make the separation much easier if the employee knows that he or she will have some income during the transition period. In addition, it can help achieve closure for your business if you know that the employee will not be able to assert any legal claims against you in the future.
- Plan the day of the termination and termination meeting. Be sure to collect all company property from the departing employee, cancel credit cards, and change passwords and access codes as necessary. If you intend to have a termination meeting, invite at least one neutral witness who does not have any other outside information about the situation. If you present a severance agreement to the employee at the termination meeting, advise the employee that he or she should feel free to consult with an attorney about the severance agreement prior to signing.